WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia traveled to Steubenville, Ohio, where he delivered remarks at Franciscan University of Steubenville to commemorate Columbus Day as well as America’s national heritage.

The speech included the following excerpts:

“Through the centuries, Columbus came to represent the spirit of adventure and discovery that we associate with America—our faith in our capacity to seek and find something new and better.  We have many heroes who personify our political ideals, but no figure so associated with the questing, the entrepreneurialism, the hope in the new that is part of the American spirit.  No other figure so represents our aspiration to make, here in this country, something new and better than the oppression and rigidity associated with that Old World.”

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“Back in the 19th century, in the face of sharp hostility associated with religion and national origin, Columbus became a powerful symbol of the claim of Italian, Irish, and other Catholic immigrants that they were fully American.  The nation’s Protestant elite proudly claimed forebears among the sons and daughters of the Revolution; Columbus was an equally proud answer that Italians and Catholics, also, had roots in the nation’s founding and a claim to be fully American.”

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“Columbus Day was first set aside to embrace this country’s diversity and welcome all citizens into the American polity, regardless of creed or national origin.  Our nation did not establish Columbus Day to commemorate oppression or discrimination, we established Columbus Day to overcome it.”

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“The failings of great men and women should remind us of human frailty—and of our own.  Their failings counsel our own humility.  They do not counsel condemning, today, people of another era who—in their imperfect, fallibly human way—built the extraordinary land of freedom and opportunity that we are fortunate to enjoy.”

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Addressing President Trump’s Executive Order 13950, “Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping,” Secretary Scalia said:

“I should be clear about what the President’s new Order does not do.  It does not prohibit workplace training about non-discrimination and equal opportunity—that training is important, the Labor Department encourages it, and in some instances we require it.  Nor does the Order prohibit the diversity training offered by countless American employers; training that, like my remarks today, emphasizes the importance of recognizing the value and worth of people of all races and creeds.  American employers should value diversity and take extra strides to assure opportunity for those who in the past have been denied it—although they must do so in a way that does not discriminate against others based on race, ethnicity, or other protected characteristics.  Finally, the President’s Order does not prohibit trainings about pre-conceptions or biases that people may have—regardless of their race or sex—about people who are different, and which could cause slights or even discrimination that’s not intended. What the Order does prohibit, though, is instruction in which federal contractors tell workers that because of their particular race or sex, they are racist, morally culpable, or less worthy of being heard.”

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“Let me say a few words about a particular kind of inclusiveness – and a particular kind of discrimination – that were on people’s minds that first Columbus Day, and which remain a subject worthy of reflection today. That is respect for people of different faiths, including Catholics’ right to live their faith while participating fully and equally in American civic life.”

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“Let’s not cancel Columbus Day while some in high office are still internalizing its message of religious inclusiveness.”

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“So today, Columbus Day, we reflect on the thrill of discovery of a New World, and the opportunity it presented to “make the world anew,” freed from the religious wars, hereditary monarchies, and class restrictions that burdened the Old World.  The hope, the optimism, the capacity for change in a New World are part of our heritage as Americans.  When Columbus set sail to that New World, he set us all on course to a better world.  We should never forget that.”

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“But we do not continue on the path the Founding Fathers charted by abandoning Columbus Day. Rather, we become better Americans by using this day to recall the newness, novelty and promise of this great nation, and how welcoming those different from us has not always come easily in America, but has been one of our greatest sources of strength.”

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Read the full text of Secretary Scalia’s Columbus Day speech.

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